HC Deb 19 November 1973 vol 864 cc947-8
27. Mr. Evelyn King

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry for how long the steam generating heavy water reactor, as completed at Winfrith, has been in operation and with what results; and what information he has as to the further use of this prototype by the Central Electricity Generating Board.

Mr. Emery

The steam generating heavy water prototype reactor at Win-frith has been in operation since 1967 and to date has produced a total of 2,250 million units of electricity. The operating performance of the reactor has been good. As well as acting as a power producer, it has served as an experimental facility to provide irradiation and engineering information for development of a commercial version of the reactor. The Atomic Energy Authority envisages that the Central Electricity Generating Board will continue to purchase electricity from the reactor in the foreseeable future.

Mr. King

I am obliged to my hon. Friend for that answer, but will he bear in mind that this generator, unlike some of its American counterparts, is wholly safe and for five years has had a faultless record? Moreover, about £100 million has been spent in the research leading up to it. If it were not further used and developed, would my hon. Friend be satisfied that that £100 million had been usefully spent?

Mr. Emery

My hon. Friend is right in the figure which he gives the House. Obviously, it has been right that we should ensure that the SGHWR was the subject of development expenditure in order to see that it would give every potential for further development. Consideration of that further development is at present being undertaken by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and the Nuclear Power Advisory Board.

Mr. Palmer

Is not the Minister aware that if a steam generating heavy water reactor station of a commercial nature were now constructed on the British system, as recommended by the Select Committee on Science and Technology four years ago, it would probably be unnecessary to go for American light water reactors?

Mr. Emery

I do not think that the hon. Gentleman can get me at the Dispatch Box to make a decision which now has to be made by the board and my right hon. Friend.